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15 March 2020
INVESTMENT

NMC Health review shows evidence of suspected fraud

The unknown debt more than doubles NMC Health’s borrowings to around $5 billion, up from the $2.1 billion that was disclosed in June 2019

The disclosures have raised questions over the company’s future ownership/Bloomberg

by Bloomberg

NMC Health said that a probe of financial irregularities discovered evidence of suspected fraud after the hospital operator disclosed a hidden $2.7 billion debt pile.

The company earlier last week said that the debt facilities had been used for unknown purposes and had not been disclosed to the board, pushing the largest private health-care company in the UAE into a full-blown accounting scandal.

In January 2020, NMC Health appointed former US Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Louis Freeh to lead a review, which reported the evidence of fraud. The revelation comes after Freeh told the firm last month he would be turning up details of supply-chain financing arrangements with affiliated companies that the board said it was unaware of.

In a bourse filing, NMC Health stated that it is fully committed to investigating these activities and has notified the relevant authorities in the UK and UAE to determine what action they also consider to be appropriate.

NMC Health has been in freefall since December 2019, when short-seller Muddy Waters Capital alleged it had overpaid for assets, inflated cash balances and understated debt. The shares, listed on London Stock Exchange, have been suspended since February 2020 and the company fell out of the FTSE 100 this month.

While the assets are real and the operating business has recurring cash flows, the valuation exercise by potential buyers is impeded by an unclear idea of the extent of the liabilities.

The hospital operator’s woes are just one of several crises for the company chain’s founder, Bavaguthu Raghuram Shetty, who resigned from his role as co-chairman on 17 February 2020. Finablr, the owner of currency-exchange businesses such as UAE Exchange, Xpress Money and Travelex Holdings, announced that it was taking urgent steps to assess its liquidity position and will appoint an independent financial adviser.

Finablr’s stock has been battered because of its ties to NMC Health and the company has been exploring strategic options, including whether to introduce a new investor or pursue a take-private transaction.

 


RELATED STORIES: NMC Health Bavaguthu Raghuram Shetty FTSE 100 Muddy Waters Capital UAE Exchange Finablr’

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